Fresh Garbage: The Gangster as Today’s Trickster
In my neighborhood when I was growing up, there was a character we used to call the “Ragsaline Man.” He got his nickname because he would call out “Ragsaline, ragsaline,” as he drove an ancient truck slowly through the neighborhood looking for rags, old iron, and other
junk. Since I had grandparents who were Italian immigrants, I was not surprised that this man could treasure other people’s garbage. We were all taught that it was a sin to waste, and to avoid that sin we had to develop new ways of seeing. In our house we were admonished for anything that might potentially be wasted. If an adult saw a child had not consumed all of the food on his or her plate, the adult would first chide the child, and then, quite often, take what was left on the plate and eat it. Many of our meals consisted of animal parts that butchers threw away or sold very cheaply. When it came to meals, we simply did not leave food on our plates. Anything not eaten in one meal would find its way into subsequent meals. Clothes that no longer fit were passed on to those who could wear them, or they were shipped to Italy. When clothes became unwearable, they were torn neatly into cleaning rags. Nothing was wasted. Our immigrant grandparents, trained to behave this way out of poverty, passed on their frugal habits.